San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Country Mourns Victims Of Madrid Bombings

COSTA Ricans, Spaniards and others across the country this week continued to mourn the lives lost in the Madrid train bombings March 11.

Yesterday, President Abel Pacheco, Spanish Ambassador Juan Urtasun, several other ambassadors, ministers and bishops from the Costa Rican Episcopal Conference and approximately 800 other people gathered for a mass at the Cathedral of San José in memory of the victims.

Archbishop Hugo Barrantes, in a sermon that emphasized respect for life and non-violence, reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s solidarity with the people and government of Spain as well as with the families of those who died and those who were injured.

THE number of dead had reached 202 by press time yesterday, and more than 1,600 were injured, including several in critical condition, according to wire reports.

“Those who have made death their culture and hate their doctrine will be able to thrust their terrible claws and claim some of our humble, good and innocent people, but they will not be able to annihilate their spirits or erase their loved and respected memory,” President Pacheco said in a speech during the ceremony yesterday.

“There is no cause, ideal, flag, ideology or creed that is justification for the murder of innocent people,” he said.

CASA España and the SpanishCulturalCenter held memorial services March 12, and this week the Spanish Embassy in San José opened a book of condolences “in memory of the victims of the brutal attack…”

“It’s very tough being here with all that is happening in Spain – it makes one feel impotent,” said one Spanish citizen in Costa Rica, who asked to remain anonymous (TT Daily Page, March15).

Members of Costa Rica’s Libertarian Movement Party also denounced the attacks and sent their “pained condolences” to the “workers, students, fathers, mothers and tourists” who died in the tragedy.

President Pacheco declared two days of national mourning in Costa Rica immediately after the attacks.

“Spain, even in the midst of great suffering, is and will always be, infinite times more powerful than the band of murderers who today [March 11] launched this terrible attack,” Pacheco said (TT Daily Page, March 12).

THE Spanish government accused the Basque separatist group ETA (Euskadi Ta Azkatasuna, which means “freedom for the Basque country”) as the responsible party directly after the attacks.

A videotape of a man claiming responsibility for Al Qaeda was delivered to a Madrid TV station Saturday. In the tape, according to wire reports, a man says, “We declare our responsibility for what happened in Madrid… It is a response to your collaboration with the criminals, (U.S. President George W.) Bush and his allies.”

At press time, Spanish and international investigators, including the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, were still investigating the attacks, which included 10 bombings on four trains, and had arrested 11 suspects – three Morrocans, an Algerian, two Indians, four people of Arab descent and one Spanish citizen, according to CNN reports.

THE bombings became a political rallying point for Spanish voters, who during Sunday’s national elections swept out the ruling Popular Party (PP) in favor of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE).

Socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced his victory following a moment of silence for the victims of the attack, and said he would unify the members of the government to put an end to terrorism.

Zapatero will take the reins from Prime Minister José María Aznar, a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq.

The Prime Minister-elect has vowed to withdraw Spanish troops from what he called the “disastrous” occupation of Iraq, Reuters reported.

On Wednesday, Zapatero rejected an appeal from Bush to stand by the United States in Iraq.

“The occupation is a fiasco. There have been almost more deaths after the war than during the war,” Zapatero was quoted by CNN.

ON Saturday, the day before the national elections, between 9 million and 11 million people marched in the streets of major cities throughout Spain, calling for an end to the violence.

On Sunday, more voters went to the polls than in previous elections. The Spanish daily El País reported that 80% of Spaniards voted, 8% more than during the 2000 elections.


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